The Star (Nairobi)

26 November 2012

Kenya: Sh200 Million Patrol Boats Grounded in Mombasa

Mystery surrounds the stalling of three Kenya Police patrol boats worth Sh201 million commissioned by the late former Internal security minister George Saitoti after being in operation for less than three months in Mombasa, the Star has established .

The three boats - MV Kiboko, MV Pate and MV Hinga - were built in the Netherlands by Sinnautic International at a cost of Sh67.5 million each.

Multiple police sources told the Star that three speed boats acquired on May 27 last year to intensify patrols along the 600km Kenyan coastline are defective.

"The grounding of the boats is a major setback in the war on drug trafficking. Traffickers use the coastline for the illegal trade," said a senior police officer who sought anonymity.

Head of Coast Marine Police Unit Stanley Lamai said MV Pate and MV Hinga stalled because of engine problem. "We are sourcing for funds from Treasury to acquire new engines from Netherlands, but the government bureaucracy has delayed the process," Lamai said.

The cost of the engines, transport and repairs are not known but Lamai said it is in terms of Euros. He said the coxswains are not well trained to operate the boats sent to Lamu, Mombasa and Malindi to counter illicit sea trades.

The reports contradict earlier statement that the officers are certified coxswains and had travelled to Netherlands for familiarisation before the boats arrived. The supply of the speed boats was part of government funding for procurement of cargo scanners, boats and helicopters, among other capital items.

The police helicopter Eurocopter AS 350, which crashed killing Saitoti, his assistant Orwa Ojode, their two body guards and two pilots, was part of the consignment. A team led by Justice Kalpana Rawal is investigating the helicopter crash.

The same Sinnautic International company was embroiled in a Sh100m scandal for the supply of two speed boats that rocked the Kenya Revenue Authority.

But KRA defended the tendering stating that the purchase of the boats was strictly in accordance with the Exchequer and Audit (Public Procurement)Regulations, 2001 which were in force at the time of procurement.

According to KRA, the tender committee awarded the contracts to Damen Shipyards of Canada to supply the small patrol boat while Sinnautic BV International were to supply the two boats.

"We assure the public that KRA is committed to transparency in carrying out its legal mandate," read a statement by KRA public relations officer Kennedy Onyonyi.

Sinnautic, Damen Shipyard of Netherlands and Hike Metal Products of Canada were among the three companies short listed for tendering out of eight companies that had shown interest.

The powerful boats were tasked to boost the war on drug trafficking by intercepting drugs ferried from a ship anchored in the high seas by speed boats before arriving in Mombasa.

"We know the war on drug trafficking has always been hampered by interference from other arms of government," said a junior officer attached to the Anti-Narcotic Unit. "We want the tendering properly investigated."

Police are now relying on Kenya Navy ships, currently engaged in the Liberation of Somalia from the al Shabab terror group, as they await the repair of the boats.

Acting marine department unit boss Samson Chalo Nzioka denied claims that the contractor has since gone underground after the boats stalled over a year ago.

He said there are three boats that are in operation including MV Tana, MV Fluzi and MV Transmara to carry out patrols within the port, Mombasa old court and Tudor creek.

However the Star has established that MV Tana is also damaged and is leaking meaning that police are using small boat MV Transmara, a captured Somalia pirates boat.

MV Transmara is among boats captured by the Navy patrolling along Indian Ocean and she is not effective in police operations. This exposes officers to risk.

Coast provincial police boss Aggrey Adoli said he was not aware if the boats are functioning."It's not under my jurisdiction. Talk to the Marine department headed by Stanley Lamai," said Adoli.

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